EU CUSTOMS UNION
A chara, - The article (April 30th) by the Turkish Ambassador, Mr Taner Baytok, on the EU's Customs Union with his country does not once mention the grave human rights' situation in Turkey. Its total focus on the economic benefits of the union suggests that Turkey places a much higher value on free trade than on free speech.
Evidence to support that suggestion was abundant when a delegation from the Turkey's Grand Assembly met members of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs recently. Although prior commitments prevented me from attending that meeting, I understand that only one member of the delegation - the assembly's president, Mustafa Kalemi - spoke on their behalf and was most evasive when questions about certain human rights' abuses were raised.
It is instructive that the delegation did not include Ms Leyla Zana, the Kurdish MP currently serving a prison sentence for making "separatist speeches" in the assembly. Ms Zana was awarded the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for human rights' work last year but her incarceration meant she was unable to travel to Strasbourg to collect
The imprisonment of Ms Zana is just one example of the way the Turkish authorities have been oppressing their Kurdish population, most of whom live in the south eastern part of the country.
Turkey has refused to answer numerous questions about its activities in that region, constantly placing the blame for atrocities and social upheaval on the PKK the armed wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party. The massacre of 11 men at the town of Guclukonak in January requires thorough and impartial investigation as the London based Kurdish Human Rights' project has gathered evidence suggesting that the men may have been killed by government forces and not by the PKK as officially stated.
A report by the same organisation also found widespread harassment and intimidation of Kurdish civilians around the time off the country's general election last December.
Meanwhile, any journalist in Turkey who does not follow the establishment line is taking enormous risks. The vice president of the Association of Journalists for Progress in Turkey, Mr Mahmyt Tali Oengoeren, told a meeting of the European Parliament recently that between May 1993 and May 1995 25 journalists were killed or died in detention and hundreds of others were attacked by security forces or held without a warrant.
Another European Parliament initiative in late March requested that Turkey facilitate a delegation to visit the Greek Cypriot enclave in Cyprus and seek information about those who have "disappeared" there as well as to support efforts to support alleged destruction by Turks of Greek Cypriot heritage such as churches and works of art there.
As the ambassador pointed out in his article, the Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Spring, has noted that trade between our two countries has grown steadily in recent years. I would appeal to the Tanaiste to take a more vigilant stance against human rights' abuses in Turkey - particularly in light of the commitment given to human rights work in the recently published White Paper on Foreign Policy - and not just to see Turkey as a convenient source of export revenue. - Le gach deaghui,
Vive-President of the
Greens in the European
Offices of the European